Royals in pole to leave purgatory
Allianz FL Div 2 focus
The esteemed members of the CCCC may have a staid 'men in blazers' reputation but they are much maligned. How else could they have produced such a fascinating climax in Division 2?
In a spectacular bout of prescience, the fixture gods have ordained that first (Meath) hosts second (Fermanagh); third (Donegal) plays fourth (Kildare); fifth (Armagh, the one county neither chasing promotion nor fearing relegation) takes on eighth (Cork); while seventh (Tipperary) welcomes sixth (Clare).
The top four all have a shout at promotion. The bottom three are all stuck on three points, desperately hoping to engineer an escape ... but only one will.
There are permutations aplenty but it's not an entire muddle either. The most obvious prediction is that Meath - barring an outrageous display of carelessness - will leave their Division 2 purgatory behind and reach the top-flight.
Displaying a spring consistency that has eluded every Meath boss post-Boylan (and even latter-day Boylan), Andy McEntee has overseen five wins from six in a division renowned for its dog-eat-mongrel ways. And but for a late mini-collapse in Donegal, it would have been six from six.
The maths, as Meath prepare to host Fermanagh in Navan tomorrow, are relatively straight-forward.
They can only be caught if they're joined by Fermanagh and Donegal on ten points apiece, then lose out on scoring difference. Even that is beyond unlikely.
Here's why: Meath's far superior scoring difference protects them unless they lose by ten or more to a team that has averaged less than 0-10 per game. Even in that case, Donegal would have to beat Kildare (possibly by up to six points) to squeeze out Meath.
It won't happen. And if it does? Meath might never recover from the humiliation. Remember, since the league reverted to four distinct tiers, in 2008, they've endured 11 seasons in Division 2 and one in Division 3. Even prior to that, they spent much of the noughties rebounding between Divisions 1B and 2B.
The irony is that, tomorrow, they could make the long-overdue leap while giving a helping hand to their arch-rivals. For if Meath win and Kildare do likewise in Ballyshannon, the Lilies will leapfrog Donegal and Fermanagh.
You wouldn't back Kildare on recent form, even in victory over Tipperary last weekend. "Every one of us, not just me, are angry and annoyed at that performance," bemoaned Cian O'Neill after his side almost botched a comfortable win.
It could be worse: he could be managing Cork. Even at the best of times, you wouldn't back them to dig out a win in Armagh.
Factoring in head-to-head results, here's a summary of Division 2's 'mini-Munster' relegation round-robin: Clare can demote both Tipperary and Cork by defeating Tipp. Whereas if Cork ambush Armagh and Tipp either beat or draw with Clare, the Rebels survive. Somehow.